Season on the Line
It may seem like an overreaction to call a non-conference matchup against the Bears as a season-defining game, but there are reasons for it. First, the Titans are more than reeling after two consecutive losses, the latest coming against a one-win team led by a rookie quarterback with four offensive linemen starting for the first time.
Second, the Titans are starting a brutal four-game stretch. After the Bears, the Titans will face the Colts twice and the Ravens. It’s not inconceivable to see the Titans dropping all four games. The Titans have gotten four wins against their division rival since the 2010 season and in none of those seasons have the Titans won both games in the series.
The matchup against the Ravens will be a rematch of the AFC Divisional round where the Titans went to Baltimore and beat the AFC’s top team. The Ravens will bring their entire arsenal with the mindset to not only beat the Titans but to squash them after last season’s embarrassment.
If the Titans do drop those three games, they could be on the outside of the playoff picture vying for a wild card spot. Tennessee must at the least enter the three-game stretch with the division lead.
The Bears may be the perfect remedy for this team. Chicago made the shift from Mitch Trubisky to Nick Foles to jumpstart a stagnant offense but have struggled to get anything going. Despite the weapons at their disposal, the Bears have only broken the 30-point plateau once this season.
Tennessee made some surprising, but necessary moves prior to the trade deadline. The Titans dumped cornerback Jonathan Joseph after trading for the Chargers former all-pro corner Desmond King. He adds an All-Pro level talent to play across from Malcolm Butler or Adoree’ Jackson.
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Additionally, the Titans cut ties with disappointing EDGE rusher Vic Beasley.
While the changes won’t shift this defense overnight, it points to a couple of important signs. One, the franchise recognizes the failure of the offseason and the struggles of the defense are real, and two, that the franchise has decided to pin the blame not on the lack of proper coaching and a defensive coordinator, but rather on the construction of the roster.
That’s a big deal. It essentially means that the fans who have been clamoring for a defensive coordinator should not expect that change to come this season. The Titans defense will live and die with the “gameplans” set by Mike Vrabel.
The first game with the new roster is coming against a favorable matchup. Despite facing a Pro-Bowl talent in Allen Robinson, the Titans won’t have to worry about a deep wide receiving corps. The Bears will look to gash the secondary with Allen Robinson or up-and-coming Darnell Mooney, but the Titans should have enough firepower to survive that onslaught.
This game will be decided by the Titans offense. Ryan Tannehill has been exceptional in his career with the Titans, and if the defense can prevent 8-minute long drives and give the offense some possessions then we should get a chance to see cold weather Derrick Henry and a passing attack with a healthier A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith than we saw last week.
The Bears have a staunch defensive line with Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack that looks and functions similar to the one they faced in the Steelers (through with a few more holes). It’ll be interesting to see who is potentially crossed off for the game given the potential COVID-19 outbreak for the Bears.
If the Titans can hold the ball, chew the clock, and score touchdowns, this should translate into a comfortable victory. On the other side, the Titans have to get off the field and stop third-down conversions. If they don’t, then prepare for the Titans to start facing the reality of a massive losing streak.